A Beautiful Poison
by Lydia Kang
Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.
Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.
As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim
My review! 5 Stars
With pre-prohibition New York as a backdrop, this murder mystery is layered with luscious settings and unsavoury characters who are perfectly flawed and despairingly human in their sense of want and rationalisation.
Between history and chemistry lessons, Kang effortlessly weaves a story of betrayal and guilt through the varied points of view of the three main characters. Part Sherlock, part Agatha Christie, and part tragic romance, A Beautiful Poison hits all the right notes, leaving the reader satisfied, but with a melancholy weight that accompanies the sorrowful calamity at the end.
From the crystal chandeliers of Upper Manhattan to the crowded and pungent tenements in Brooklyn, Ms. Kang's mystery feeds off the desperation of its characters, pulling the reader in further until you have no choice but to gasp at the final reveal.
An excellent read for those who enjoy a richly imagined world with textured writing and characters who slip under your skin like a tiny splinter—whether you like it or not.